To the Editor:
Hopewell Township is poised to undergo as much development in the next few years as it has undergone over the past 300 years of its history. One of the political talking points that has been adopted by people who favor the building of thousands of multi-story tract housing units on what is now pristine farmland appeals to neighborliness. This talking point was recently used by Deputy Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning. Speaking in support of development she asked “Do we want to greet our new neighbors with pitchforks or open arms?… I hope my neighbors and residents of this beautiful community we share will welcome new neighbors with open arms instead of putting up roadblocks.” (Reported in MercerMe, March 2, 2021)
The aim of this talking point is clear: To paint those who are concerned with the commercial development of Hopewell as being unneighborly. Their concerns can then be ignored.
This is a grossly unfair move. To see how unfair it is, ask whether Courtney Peters-Manning would favor building 5,000 multi-story commercial tract housing units at Scotch Road. How about 10,000? Or 15,000? If she would not favor building 15,000 new housing units at Scotch Road, should we then ask her why she does not want to meet her new neighbors with open arms, instead of chasing them off with pitchforks?
Of course, we shouldn’t. Because this political talking point used to promote commercial development is deliberate misdirection. The issue is not about how welcoming Hopewell is to new residents. (As both a new resident and an immigrant I can attest that it is very welcoming indeed!) The issue is about the effects that commercial development on this scale will have on Hopewell. Will the tax increases be so great that long-term residents will have to give up their homes as they can no longer afford them? How badly will the environment be affected by building thousands of densely-packed tract housing units on sensitive land? How badly will residents’ quality of life decline with significant increase in traffic congestion and pollution?
Expressing these serious and genuine concerns is not unneighborly. What is unneighborly is simply to dismiss them with a cheap political talking point.
James Stacey Taylor